You’ve clicked on the inspirational links. You’ve followed bloggers for their time-proven advice. You’ve watched YouTube tutorials–but still, your Bullet Journal remains a hot mess.
It isn’t that you haven’t tried.
You’ve even attempted brush marker lettered headings, for Pete’s sake.
But your lines aren’t straight, the balance of your layout veers asymmetrically, and even when you’ve finally crafted your bujo to a point where you are happy with its set-up, the minute you try to use it in real life, everything goes completely off the rails.
Your handwriting is sloppy. You’ve crammed too much info into a margin. And that adorable leaf you tried to draw in the corner of a page looks like it was sketched by a six-year-old.
It’s a recipe for frustration.
The one secret that Bullet Journalers on Instagram hide.
Want to know a secret?
Every gorgeous spread in a journal photographed to perfection is surrounded on either side by hundreds of other hideous pages. (Unless you are Boho Berry. I’m pretty sure all of her spreads are amazing.)
Any Bullet Journal blogger using their notebooks in real life experiences scribbles and scratch-outs and WTF-was-I-thinking moments.
Of course, it would be lovely to sit in front of two blank pages at your desk with a cup of tea and a newly sharpened set of Prismacolors close at hand. But those opportunities are often rare.
Most of the time your bujo is crammed into a bag with a zillion other things, and hastily pulled out so you can check off a completed task, find an appointment time, or calm your panic when you suddenly wonder, “Did I forget my best friend’s birthday last week?”
So, why do we hide the mistakes?
Reason #1: For the same reason we wear makeup and bras.
I realize this may not come as a shock, but my eyelashes aren’t this long, and the girls might not be quite as perky without a little help. We wear makeup and bras because everyone else wears them; we struggle to feel comfortable in our own skin, and compare ourselves to others, creating a standard that requires a little bit “more” than what we are.
Let’s be real. No one wants to just roll out of bed and “be themselves.” We want to be ourselves, plus 20%. Perfect Bullet Journal spreads on Instagram are like walking out the door with freshly made-up faces and a push-up bra in the morning. It’s fabulous for a minute, but that face is going to end up on a Kleenex by the trashcan sixteen hours later, and that bra will be hanging on the back of a chair within 5 minutes of getting home.)
We want to look a little prettier than we are, and we want our Bullet Journals to look that way too!
Reason #2: We’re afraid our teacher is going to yell at us.
For most of us, the last time we sat at a desk to write something longhand, we were in elementary school.
I still remember crying one day in kindergarten, because I couldn’t draw a capital T and was terrified of what would happen next when I’d erased a mistake so vigorously I’d torn a hole in the paper. (My teacher was awesome. She told me it was okay, even though it clearly wasn’t. THERE WAS A HOLE IN THE PAPER!!!)
We have all kinds of mental associations with having our papers judged and found wanting. Just as we used to compare our work to that of the kid next to us, weighing whether or not ours would fall short, we tend to compare our bujo spreads to those of others we admire. It’s hard to get over that.
And so we put our inventiveness out there for a grade, cherishing every little heart on our Instagram post.
Reason #3: If you see all the pages, you will see the crazy.
The Bullet Journal pages we aspire to create feel peaceful. They are simple. There is white space. They offer a sense of control.
But the day-to-day pages? The ones with coffee spilled on them and worn with use? Well, that’s where the real thinking happens.
Our brains are messy! Our thoughts don’t fit into straight lines with embellished edges. We spill reflections onto paper, draw lines to connect related thoughts, and sketch bubbles around disparate thoughts. We also think so much faster than we write – so of course sometimes we have to catch up–and a page can look disorganized and messy when we’ve forgotten to put a header on a page and wind up squishing it in later.We fear posting the less perfect pages because we will appear less than perfect.
Why we should let those reasons go and share our ugly bullet journals.
#1. It lets us know we’re not alone (which lowers our stress).
It’s the worst when you feel like everyone else has their sh*t together except for you.
And even though you know it’s counterproductive to compare, you do. (And then you wind up launching an endless litany of accusations at yourself.)
It’s ridiculous, but it happens. A lot. (I completely want to disable this feature in my brain, but I can’t find the settings to do it.)
When we see another’s mess, we feel better – because we know we aren’t the only one not getting everything right the first time. It blissfully lowers the bar.
#2. Because your dad’s hammer had paint on it.
Bullet Journals are a tool. And just like any other tool, one that’s in pristine condition is one that hasn’t been used in real life.
Tools are the most effective when you use them, and aren’t being overly cautious with them. After all, it’s never about the tool itself, it’s about what the tool can do for you. Hammers put nails in things; when they’re not hitting nails nails, they just take up space.
The most interesting tools aren’t on hardware store shelves but on real work benches in real life.
Your ugly Bullet Journal pages have that kind of beauty.
#3. You need the insight.
Seeing how others use their Bullet Journals–in all their messy ingloriousness–gives you insight into how people think on paper. And that has value.
It’s not about an artistically detailed list of movies we’ve seen. It’s a step toward deciding how you are going to finish a project, remember to do things, or balance your limited resources of time, money, and energy.
Watching others pull that off is helpful.
Not only that, but it’s inspiring!
(And why wouldn’t you want to be a source of inspiration?)
Here’s the thing: Bullet Journals don’t care when they are ugly. Only you do.
It’s fun to look through Instagram and get inspired. There are ideas for adding a little extra to our lives and planning It gives us something to aspire to and helps us add that plus 20%.
But seeing photos of “normal” Bullet Journals can hold out its own kind of inspiration. (C’mon, you know you want to see some of this on your Pinterest boards.)
Ugly is real.
Ugly is powerful.
And most of all…ugly is still getting stuff done.
Wouldn’t it feel great to embrace it? Let’s take over a hashtag right now. Because what’s been posted with the #uglybujo hashtag to date isn’t nearly ugly enough. Find your ugliest pages and post them now. (I only needed to flip open to find mine!)
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